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my rights and safety at work

HI. I teach in a special school. Some parts of this only teachers will be able to help with but other parts, anybody might. Sorry if its long.

At the begining of my pregnancy I had a scare just after a  volatile child hit me in the chest. I don't know if it was related but the doctor wrote me a note saying I wasn't to work directly with aggressive pupils. I asked for a risk assessment as it still hadn't materialised. The head finally wrote me one and the deputy gave it me but said "thats it in theory but in practise..." and shrugged.

I'm still in the same room (its the least violent of all the classes) and so far have managed to keep my distance from this child. Since then I have had a new child who is not deliberately violent but throws himself and objects around, so I tried to keep my distance from him too. Now I have a new pupil starting who is coming to us because he has been expelled from his previous school for violence to staff. Half of the week I will only have one assistant with me (one less than this year). One assistant can't deal with all three.

So... my question for any teachers is this... if I refuse to get involved and a pupil ends up injured (or worse) will I be liable? My pupils attack each other but I obviously don't want to separate them or get physically involved. I am worried of punches, kicks, chairs being thrown and tables being pushed into me. Also, some violence is because the children won't do their work and I make them. So what happens if I don't make them? Can I just say okay and then write down 0% progress on their end of term report? 

My question for anyone else is this... are my employers behaving legally?

My father in law suggested I ask employers for written confirmation of having read the doctors note. Do you think this will work?

I'm dreading going back. I know all babies are precious but we had to have help for this one and it means more to me than my career does. I don't know what to say or do image


  • Hi there,

    I'm really sorry to hear about your dilema and can imagine that this is causing you a great deal of stress right now.

    I'm a primary teacher in a mainstream school.  I can't answer most of your questions but can tell you what I did.  A couple of years ago (I wasn't pregnant at the time) I had a violent child in my class.  She would lash out at me, hit me in the face, scratch me to draw blood and throw things (including chairs) etc etc.  It got to the point where I was inccredibly stressed and felt that SMT weren't supporting me at all, to be honest it felt like most days they didn't even care.  Luckily for me this girl had 1:1 support all day every day so eventually (and to make it clear to SMT that I was no longer going to put up with her violent behaviour towards me) whenever she used to "kick off" I would march the rest of the class out of the room to somewhere "safe" and leave her with her 1:1 and then send an sos card (which we have for emergencies in every room) to the office so someone else could deal with it. 

    Are you a member of a union?  I would strongly suggest you contact them and see what they say about the situation.

    I don't think (but wouldn't know for certain) that you can be held liable if a child is injured and you refuse to get involve (especially given the fact you are pregnant), however I would suggest that you have a go to person who you can send to for help if a volatile situation presents itself, that way you are doing something proactive but not putting yourself in danger.

    With regards to the violence due to them not doing their work.  If it were me and I thought it would cause problems I wouldn't push the issue too hard, obviously I would tell them that they needed to do their work and ask them a second time but if the situation began to get tense / seemed like it would escalate then I would probably leave it (after all you won't be accountable at the end of the year because you'll be on maternity leave so let someone else deal with it image

    If worst comes to worst could you ask the doctor to sign you off sick and then start your maternity leave early?  It's not worth risking your baby for.

    What does your risk assessment say about these situations and how these will be dealt with by SMT? 

    Sorry I can't help more, I would really urge you to speak to a union as they will be able to address your concerns directly and back you up against your head.


  • I really don't know. My advice would be to contact your union to find out where you stand because ultimately they would be the ones to back you up if a situation arose over the whole liability thing. You need to make sure you are covered and know where you stand. I know things like this aren't easy when you just want to keep the peace, but you and your baby are the most important in this situation and you need to do what you have to to protect yourself. Why is it in this job you always feel like you come second?! Grrr! I really hope you get the problem sorted and you can relax then. x

  • Thanks ladies. I have e-mailed my union. They mailed back with the name, number and working times of the guy I need to speak to. I feel a bit better already. Fingers crossed he can help me xXx

  • Hi hun, are you trained in restraint techniques to be used in class? The reason I ask is that I teach in a prison (used to be a primary teacher) and staff who are badged (qualified in restraint) have a duty to intervene if it kicks off. Therefore, pregnant staff are instantly removed from prisoner contact in that instance. As a teacher I am not badged, but chose to come out of the classroom because of the nature of the environment. If you have no luck with getting support from the managers at your school I would be inclined to go back to the Dr. They can write you a fit-note that says you can be at work but under certain conditions and one of those conditions is a change of duties. Failing that, the Dr can sign you off for the duration of your pregnancy- it means your mat leave will automatically start at 36 weeks. Your loyalties are to yourself and your baby, so don't feel guilty if you have to take time off to ensure you're safe. x x
  • Hi DottysBird

    I am SCIPP trained  (Strategies for Crisis. Intervention and Prevention) which means we can do 'holds' as a last resort but not restraints as such. I have written to school unbder the advice of my union and told them that I am aware of my duty of care but also of health and safety rights and that I won't be getting involved. I have to give work the option of arguing this but if they do have to go back to the union. My GP has also said if they do he will sign me off. I plan to start maternity leave at 32 weks anyway because of what I do. They already have had a note from him saying I am fit to work but not with violent pupils. So we'll see. My letter is all done so fingers crossed now. Thyanks for your help xXx

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